Friday, August 31, 2007

NorthHaven Opens



NorthHaven Church, a new church start in Norman, Oklahoma affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, will conduct its first worship service at its own facilities this Sunday.

Today, the church is being featured in the religion section of the Norman Transcript. Here's a quote from pastor Mitch Randall:

Randall said the 12,000 square-foot building houses a sanctuary/fellowship hall, offices, a conference room and a special detail.

"They wanted to create a wing of the building or a specific room that's dedicated primarily to community activities," he explained.

Church members would like to open the church to neighborhood associations and community organizations, Randall said. The public can reserve any of the rooms by calling the church office.
For the record, the initial suggestion to that the church add a room for the use of community organizations came from Dr. Rick McClatchy in discussions that preceeded the formal organization of the church. At the time, McClatchy was Coordinator of the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma. Now he is Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Texas.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

On Scapegoating Iran for Failure in Iraq

Ray McGovern, former analyst with the CIA, is warning that the Bush administration is determined to scapegoat Iran for its failures in Iraq. Here's a quote:

Bush and Cheney have clearly decided to use alleged Iranian interference in Iraq as the preferred casus belli. And the charges, whether they have merit or not, have become much more bellicose. Thus, Bush on Aug. 28:

"Iran's leaders...cannot escape responsibility for aiding attacks against coalition forces...The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops. I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities."

How convenient: two birds with one stone. Someone to blame for our losses in Iraq, and "justification" to confront the ostensible source of the problem.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rove Responds to Moyers

Ethics Daily has published a story about Karl Rove's response to Bill Moyers' critique of his faith. Here's a quote:

In a comment on Moyers' blog, Deal Hudson, director of the Morley Institute for Church & Culture and former editor and publisher of the politically conservative and Catholic Crisis Magazine, said Moyers owed Rove an apology. Hudson said he e-mailed Rove a copy of Moyers' comments, and Rove sent him the following reply:

"I am a believing Christian who attends his neighboring Episcopal parish church. People have taken out of context a quote in which I express admiration for the deep faith of colleagues that so clearly informs their lives as a statement I am not a believer. I am: just not as good a Christian as some very fine people I have been honored to call friends and colleagues."

Two days after Moyers' comment Rove gave a wide-ranging interview on "Fox News Sunday," during which interviewer Chris Wallace aired a portion of Moyers' commentary and asked Rove to respond.

"I'm a Christian," Rove said. "I go to church. I'm an Episcopalian."
In my opinion, Rove's statements should be taken at face value. Moyers mentioned widespread rumors that Rove was agnostic. Rove disclaimed the rumors.

Moyers owes Rove an apology.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On the Dangers of Privatized Intelligence

James Carroll, whose father founded the Defense Intelligence Agency, has written an alarming essay about the dangers of "Outsourcing intelligence." Here's a quote:

The Bush administration has replaced officials with contractors throughout government, outsourcing run amok. But Bush did not begin this. Since Ronald Reagan, conservatives have preached the doctrine that the nation's basic needs can best be met by private enterprise. The profit motive trumps any public ideal. Consequently, government has been in slow motion collapse, with the ineptitudes of Iraq as final proof of its untrustworthiness.

But what the antigovernment movement missed is that attacks on the public sector equal assaults on the public. When the high calling of public service yields to the highest bid, the corruption is total: the heart of government -- the military -- becomes mercenary; the mind of the military -- intelligence -- becomes privatized. Citizenship itself is universally gutted, yet another source of our malaise.

Is Universal Health Care for Children a Socialist Plot?

Paul Krugman offers some cogent arguments in the debate over whether universal health care for children would be "middle class welfare" or a "socialist plot." Here's a quote:

We offer free education, and don't worry about middle-class families getting benefits they don't need, because that's the only way to ensure that every child gets an education -- and giving every child a fair chance is the American way. And we should guarantee health care to every child, for the same reason.

Monday, August 27, 2007

On Silent Accomplices

Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who was the subject of the move Hotel Rwanda, says the churches failed to speak out during the Rwandan Genocide. Here's a quote from a story at Ethics Daily:

Prior to 1994, Rwanda was described as the most Christianized country in Africa. Ninety percent of its citizens professed to be Christians. But that didn't stop tribal violence from breaking out that resulted in the wanton murder of 800,000 people in 100 days.

Like other foreigners, American missionaries were evacuated when the killing started, Paul Rusesabagina told EthicsDaily.com.

"The Rwandan genocide took place in a hidden way, without any eyewitnesses from the international community," Rusesabagina said. "When it comes to churches, all the churches kept quiet."

"Silence, as we all know, is complicity," he said.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Robert Fisk's Questions About 9-11 Truth

Robert Fisk of the Independent UK lists some questions about the official version of what happened on 9-11. Here's a quote:

I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C -– would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower -– the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) -– which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering -– very definitely not in the "raver" bracket -– are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be "fraudulent or deceptive".

Friday, August 24, 2007

Seeing Yourself Through Virtual Reality

The New York Times is reporting that scientists have devised an experiment that induces an out-of-body experience.

It is a fascinating experiment. I'm not sure what it proves.

Through an exercise of imagination, humans have long been able to project themselves outside their bodies. We do it in dreams all the time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

North Carolina Baptist Women Separate from Fundamentalist Men

Three cheers for the Women's Missionary Union in North Carolina. ABP is reporting that they have separated themselves from the Fundamentalist dominated state convention. Here's a quote:

WMU-NC wants to resource other Baptist entities in mission education and involvement, Fulbright said. That includes assistance to churches that affiliate with other denominations and with bodies such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist World Alliance. The SBC’s conservative leaders have been highly critical of both groups.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Most Dangerous Man in America

Scott Ritter, former head of U.N. arms inspections in Iraq, has written an essay that ought to be entitled "The Most Dangerous Man in America." If he succeeds in ushering in a war with Iran, he'll earn the title as the most dangerous man in the world. Here's a quote from Ritter:

The absolute worst of the rot that has infected America because of the policies and actions of the Bush administration has originated from the office of the vice president. The nonsensical response to the terror attacks of 9/11, seeking a "global war" versus defending the rule of law at home and abroad, taking the lead in spreading the lies that got us involved in Iraq, legitimizing torture as a tool of American jurisprudence, advocating for warrantless wiretappings of U.S.-based communications (regardless of what the Fourth Amendment says against illegal search and seizure), and pushing for an expansion of America’s global conflict into Iran-all can be traced back to the person of Cheney as the point of origin.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fox News Reports Strike on Iran Within Six Months

Fox News has reported that a former CIA field officer is predicting that the U.S. will strike Iran without warning within the next six months. Here's a quote:

"We won't see American troops cross the border. . . . If this is going to happen, it's going to happen very quickly and it's going to surprise a lot of people," said Baer. "I hope I'm wrong frankly, but we're going to see."

Did the GOP Use Government Resources to Win Elections?

McClatchy News has published a report about investigations of 15 government agencies to determine if they used federal resources to assist the GOP in winning elections. Here's an excerpt:

The House Oversight Committee is investigating whether the White House's political briefings to at least 15 agencies, including to the Justice Department, the General Services Administration and the State Department, violated a ban on the use of government resources for campaign activities.

Under the Hatch Act, Cabinet members are permitted to attend political briefings and appear with members of Congress. But Cabinet members and other political appointees aren't permitted to spend taxpayer money with the aim of benefiting candidates.

During the briefings at Treasury and Commerce, then-Bush administration political director Ken Mehlman and other White House aides detailed competitive congressional districts, battleground election states and key media markets and outlined GOP strategy for getting out the vote.

Commerce and Treasury political appointees later made numerous public appearances and grant announcements that often correlated with GOP interests, according to a review of the events by McClatchy Newspapers. The pattern raises the possibility that the events were arranged with the White House's political guidance in mind.

The briefings are part of the legacy of White House political adviser Karl Rove, who announced this week that he's stepping down at the end of the month to spend more time with his family. Despite Rove's departure, investigations into the briefings are expected to continue.

Monday, August 20, 2007

On Religious Equality Vs. Theocracy

Jim Evans has written an outstanding essay contrasting the difference between religious equality and theocracy. Here's a quote:

So when Dr. Kennedy tells us that he despises tolerance, he is not kidding. If he had his way the Constitution would be scrapped in favor of an Old Testament theocracy.

Of course, I wouldn’t mind a theocracy, which literally means "rule by God," if God was in fact the one who ruled. But what usually happens in theocratic states is someone who claims to speak for God ends up running things, and normally not too well.

Getting back to tolerance, mere tolerance, in my opinion, does not go far enough. Simple toleration of someone or some idea is not the ideal expressed in our founding documents. In America we don't promote tolerance among religions; we practice "religious freedom."

In America, as far as the law is concerned, all human beings and their various religions are created equally. If we fail to protect this basic constitutional ideal, we will find ourselves on a path that leads to totalitarianism.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Moyers on Rove's Resignation

Bill Moyers will comment on Karl Rove's resignation this evening on PBS. Raw Story has posted a preview. Here's a quote:

At his press conference this week he asked God to bless the president and the country, even as reports were circulating that he himself had confessed to friends his own agnosticism; he wished he could believe, but he cannot. That kind of intellectual honesty is to be admired, but you have to wonder how all those folks on the Christian right must feel discovering they were used for partisan reasons by a skeptic, a secular manipulator. On his last play of the game all Karl Rove had to offer them was a hail mary pass, while telling himself there’s no one there to catch it.
Richard Land has been on a weekly conference call with Rove for the past six years.

Was Land duped by this "secular manipulator," or was he spending all that time trying to witness to Karl?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Call for Prayer

Wiley Drake, former Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention, has issued a call for imprecatory prayer against my good friends and colleagues at Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming.

I am fully convicted that Drake is completely misguided to offer imprecations against these staunch advocates of both religious liberty and the golden rule, I intend to make it a point to pray daily at 9:00 AM CST for God to bless Joe Conn, Jeremy Leaming, Barry Lynn, Rob Boston and everyone else at Americans United.

I'll also pray for Wiley Drake and his cohorts to attune their hearts more fully to that of Jesus of Nazareth who denounced every temptation to enlist civil power as a means to inaugurate his kingdom.

While I am at it, I'm going to pray for Brent Walker, Hollyn Hollman and everyone at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty who share the mission with Americans United (an organization that the BJC helped found) as watchdogs over separation of church and state.

Please join me in these prayers.

And let's pray in our private prayer closets, as Jesus commanded (Matt. 6:5-13). True prayer is not for show, it's an act of worship. God has never needed people to all be on the same phone line to hear their prayers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Roots

My Dad's parents were William Edward Prescott and Erma Ruby Morrow Prescott. My grandmother, b. 1904 in Missouri, is pictured wearing the navy blue and white polka dot dress that I remember her wearing when I last saw her. She died in 1958.

My grandfather, b. 1904 in Colorado, was the oldest of four children born to William Addison Prescott, b. 1866 in Wisconsin, and Cora Bubb Prescott, b. 1876 in Illinois. William E., Charles A., Lyman S., and Mildred E. Prescott were orphaned in Denver in 1910. Mildred was adopted. My grandfather hated life in his Catholic orphanage and was placed in the George W. Clayton College for Boys in Denver in November 1911. He was discharged in 1922 when he entered the Army. In the Army he took up boxing and fought under the name "Soldier Prescott." In 1926 he was honorably discharged from the Army and began to box professionally under the name "Billy Bubb." Once a sparring partner to Jack Dempsey, they were friends until death. When he gave up boxing, my grandfather moved to Pueblo, Colorado to work in the steel mill. When he retired, he moved to California. He died in 1983.

The names of my great-grandfather's parents have been a mystery to my family until last week when I managed to track down some genealogical information on the web.

William A. Prescott, age 14, born in 1866 in Wisconsin is listed in the 1880 U.S. Census Records from Lima, Pepin, Wisconsin under the household of George Coles, age 50, born in New York and Sarah Coles, age 56, born in Canada. In the same household is a Laura E.(Elvira?) Prescott, age 22, born in Wisconsin and a George H. Cole, age 9, born in Wisconsin. The father's birthplace for the children is listed as Vermont. The mother's birthplace is listed as Canada. That suggests that Sarah is the mother of the Prescott children, but George is not the father.

If the sources I've discovered are correct, the 1860 U.S. Census Records from Wisconsin must show a Sarah Barnard Prescott, age 36, born in Canada listed as the wife of a Lyman Prescott, age 40, born in Vermont with a daughter named Laura Alvira Prescott, age 2, born in Wisconsin. William A. Prescott (my great-grandfather) was not born until 1866. By the time of the 1870 Census, Lyman and Sarah had split up.

Here's a link to Lyman Prescott, b. 1820, in Richard Prescott Bale's online family history. From there you can follow the lineage of fathers in my family tree all the way back to William De Prestcote, b. before 1195.

Head Honcho

William R. Prescott, b. 1930, was head honcho for the clan pictured above. The picture was taken in the summer of 1980 -- two years after Dad received his Masters Degree in Art Education from the University of New Mexico.

Tena Prescott, my Mom, is now a retired secretary from the Albuqerque Public School System. Penni is now a Respiratory Therapist at the Children's Hospital in Dallas and Pat is still teaching History for the Albuquerque Public School System.

Monday, August 13, 2007

At a Loss for Words

My dad died yesterday. He was a retired Albuquerque public school teacher.

I'm not in much of a mood to blog today. I may, or may not, miss a few more days blogging this week. It depends on how and when my mood changes.

Instead of writing, I'm going to post a couple more pictures of Dad. Below are a couple of my favorite pictures of Dad with my son, Will -- when both were much younger.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Southwestern Seminary Becomes Homemaking School

There was a time when Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth was busting at the seams trying to accommodate all the men and women who wanted to earn a degree in theology. The school had more than 5,000 students a year in the 1980's.

That was before Fundamentalists consolidated their power at the school and replaced Russell Dilday as president. Now Southwestern Seminary is a mere shadow of what it was when moderates ran the institution.

As enrollments slipped and funding was tied to the number of students enrolled, the school devised a number of "creative" schemes to keep dollars flowing to the school from denominational headquarters. For more than a decade the school has been reporting "Full Time Equivalents" (FTE's) for enrollment figures. FTE's have been described to me as "anything that walks across the campus in the course of a year."

Now,as the Dallas Morning News reports, the school is resorting to teaching homemaking, cooking, and sewing classes for their idea of model minister's wives.

If I still considered myself a Southern Baptist, I would be embarrassed.

Judging from the continued decline in interest in theological study at their seminaries, it looks like a lot of people within their fold are less than enthusiastic about swallowing the pablum they are now serving.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Krugman on the Current Liquidity Crisis

Economist Paul Krugman has posted an essay on the current turmoil in financial markets around the world. He doesn't paint a pretty picture.

When liquidity dries up, as I said, it can produce a chain reaction of defaults. Financial institution A can’t sell its mortgage-backed securities, so it can’t raise enough cash to make the payment it owes to institution B, which then doesn’t have the cash to pay institution C — and those who do have cash sit on it, because they don’t trust anyone else to repay a loan, which makes things even worse.

And here’s the truly scary thing about liquidity crises: it’s very hard for policy makers to do anything about them.

Cheney Laying Groundwork for Iran Strike

McClatchy News is reporting that "Cheney Urging Strikes on Iran." Here's a couple quotes:

Cheney, who's long been skeptical of diplomacy with Iran, argued for military action if hard new evidence emerges of Iran's complicity in supporting anti-American forces in Iraq; for example, catching a truckload of fighters or weapons crossing into Iraq from Iran, one official said.
. . .

Proposals to use force against Iran over its actions in Iraq mark a new phase in the Bush administration's long internal war over Iran policy.

Until now, some hawks within the administration — including Cheney — are said to have favored military strikes to stop Iran from furthering its suspected ambitions for nuclear weapons.

Rice has championed a diplomatic strategy, but that, too, has failed to deter Iran so far.

John Dean on Executive Aggrandizement

John Dean, former White House Counsel under Richard Nixon, has posted an essay on Findlaw that says the danger of the so-called "Protect America Act" is its executive aggrandizement. Here's a quote:

This law is another bold and blatant move by Bush to enhance the powers of the Executive branch at the expense of its constitutional co-equals. . . .

This, of course, is consistent with Bush and Cheney's general drive to weaken or eliminate all checks and balances constraining the Executive. This drive was evidenced by countless laws enacted by the Republican-controlled Congresses during the first six years of the Administration, and in countless signing statements added by the President interpreting away any constraints on the Executive. Thus, when even the GOP Congresses required presidential compliance and reporting, they were thwarted.

The most stunning aspect of the Democrats' capitulation is their abandoning of their institutional responsibility to hold the president accountable. The Protect America Act utterly fails to maintain any real check on the president's power to undertake electronic surveillance of literally millions of Americans. This is an invitation to abuse, especially for a president like the current incumbent.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

On Pentagon Evangelism


No, this isn't another blog about the top brass endorsements of the Christian Embassy in their promotional video.

This is about the abysmal "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" video game that is being distributed to soldiers in Iraq. In a previous blog I described this game as a "religious warfare instructional video." Here's a link to a podcast of a radio interview about the game.

Max Blumenthal has posted a story that summarizes the message as "Kill or Convert" and that is a pretty good summary of the game's message. Advocates of church-state separation as well as Catholics, Jews, gays and Muslims are targeted for extermination on the streets of New York.

Are elements within the Religious Right trying to prepare soldiers to wage religious wars in New York City after they leave Iraq?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Not An Idle Threat

China is threatening to destabilize the dollar by unloading its holdings of U.S. Treasuries.

This is not an idle threat.

Uncle Sam's deficit spending and our country's trade deficits have put our economy at risk.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Turkish Troops Invade Iraq

News reports are confirming that Turkish troops are setting up bases in the Kurdish areas of Northern Iraq.

The Kurds have been the most loyal allies of the U.S. within Iraq.

The Kurds are quickly becoming the odd men out of the land and oil grab that will take place in Iraq as the U.S. withdraws.

On Tangling Feet

Caroline Arnold, formerly a staff member for Ohio Senator John Glenn, has posted an essay about impeachment that makes some fairly astute observations. Here's one of them:

His supporters believed that Ronald Reagan planned to hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union by goading it to invest in military technology to circumvent our “Star Wars” missile interception system, (the Strategic Defense Initiative that never worked) and by undermining the Soviet economy to damage the civilian infrastructure and weaken ideological support for communism.

It may be that such was the plan. By the late 1980s the Soviets were running out of money and having trouble maintaining their civilian infrastructure; they had lost most of their ideological credibility and popular support: the system simply couldn’t keep operating and collapsed, though it’s debatable whether U.S. action caused it.

We might equally observe that Osama bin Laden planned the destruction of the United States by goading the Bush administration to invest in an economy-busting war on Iraq, by giving the neo-cons a pretext for abridging citizen’s rights and destroying public faith in democracy and government, by providing Bush an excuse to detain and torture suspects, by giving the US commercial media new opportunities to use fear and violence to sell more stuff, and by creating new markets for large corporations to sell weapons for destruction and expertise for reconstruction.

Monday, August 06, 2007

On the Dismemberment of Iraq

Chris Hedges has written an instructive essay about how the war in Iraq is "Beyond Disaster." Here's a quote:

Saddam Hussein, like the more benign dictator Josip Broz Tito in the former Yugoslavia, understood that the glue that held the country together was the secret police.

Iraq, however, is different from Yugoslavia. Iraq has oil-lots of it. It also has water in a part of the world that is running out of water. And the dismemberment of Iraq will unleash a mad scramble for dwindling resources that will include the involvement of neighboring states. The Kurds, like the Shiites and the Sunnis, know that if they do not get their hands on water resources and oil they cannot survive. But Turkey, Syria and Iran have no intention of allowing the Kurds to create a viable enclave. A functioning Kurdistan in northern Iraq means rebellion by the repressed Kurdish minorities in these countries. The Kurds, orphans of the 20th century who have been repeatedly sold out by every ally they ever had, including the United States, will be crushed. The possibility that Iraq will become a Shiite state, run by clerics allied with Iran, terrifies the Arab world. Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel, would most likely keep the conflict going by arming Sunni militias. This anarchy could end with foreign forces, including Iran and Turkey, carving up the battered carcass of Iraq. No matter what happens, many, many Iraqis are going to die. And it is our fault.

How Ruthless Rumsfeld Outed Joe Darby

BBC News has published a story about the ordeal faced by Joe Darby, the Military Policeman who exposed the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, after he reported the abuse to his superiors. Darby understandably feared retaliation from within the military for exposing the abuse and requested anonymity:

And then he was sitting in a crowded Iraqi canteen with hundreds of soldiers and Donald Rumsfeld came on the television to thank Joe Darby by name for handing in the photographs.

"I don't think it was an accident because those things are pretty much scripted," Mr Darby says.

"But I did receive a letter from him which said he had no malicious intent, he was only doing it to praise me and he had no idea about my anonymity.

"I really find it hard to believe that the secretary of defence of the United States has no idea about the star witness for a criminal case being anonymous."
There are at least two possible explanations for Rumsfeld's behavior. Either he's an imbecile or he's ruthless.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Romney Grilled About Health Care at Diner

Mitt Romeny got an unexpected response when he spoke about health care at a Washington D.C. diner.

A waitress, Michelle Griffin, asked him some tough questions about the accessibility and affordability of health care in this country.

She asked the kind of questions that every politician in this country needs to face.

She's clearly fed up with pious platitudes from politicians in both parties.

Here's a link to a story at the Washington Post and a video of the exchange.

Thanks for speaking up, Michelle.

DOD: Officers Wrongfully Endorsed Christian Embassy

An investigation by the Department of Defense concludes that military officers were filmed for a video in ways that gave the appearance that the Defense Department endorsed the work of the Christian Embassy. The Christian Embassy is a non-profit organization affiliated with Campus Crusade. The Christian Embassy used the film for fund raising.

Several high ranking officers were cited for misconduct.

Jason Leopold has posted a story with the video at Truth Out.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Why Gaddy is Right and Robinson is Wrong

Chuck Currie has posted a blog defending Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson's endorsement of Barak Obama. After Welton Gaddy, Executive Director of the Interfaith Alliance, criticized Robinson's endorsement of a political candidate, Currie wrote a blog entitled "Why Gene Robinson is Right and Welton Gaddy is Wrong."

Currie recently endorsed Barak Obama himself and was questioned about it on Welton Gaddy's radio program. Here's a quote from Currie's blog:

Welton invited me to come on his show right after I made my endorsement and asked me to explain why I was supporting Obama and what I thought the role of churches should be in politics. He told listeners that my answer was one of the best he had ever heard (you can listen to the show here).

Few people in America have earned my respect the way Welton Gaddy has. He is a tremendous champion of the separation of church and state and a strong voice for the progressive religious community. But if he is suggesting that religious leaders cannot as individuals engage in the political process he is simply wrong.

Religious leaders should be (and are under the law) free as individuals to become involved in all aspects of public life but must do so without bringing our churches along for the ride. I understand and appreciate Welton's concerns but disagree with his conclusions.
Currie is needlessly obfuscating Gaddy's point by insinuating that "he is suggesting that religious leaders cannot as individuals engage in the political process." That is not what he or any other leader among church/state separationists is suggesting.

What we are suggesting is that no person of faith should undermine the integrity of their faith by subjecting it to the compromising influences of secular politics.

There's no point in denying that endorsing candidates is about exercising influence in electoral politics. Currie and Robinson are free to line up as private citizens beside actors, musicians, union bosses, CEO's and others whose celebrity politicians hope to use to boost their standing among voters. No one, however, would take notice of them if they were merely standing there as private citizens. Their ability to exert influence comes from their identification with and position in the church.

I've been engaged in political activities as a private citizen for decades but I don't do endorsements. I've attended campaign meetings. I've written checks to candidates. I've passed out flyers, mailed brochures, and made phone calls for candidates. When I engage in partisan political activities I never volunteer information about myself or my vocation. If someone knows my vocation and mentions it in that setting, I always make it clear that I am acting outside my responsibilities as a minister. The focus should be on the candidate and the positions he/she holds on issues pertinent to the campaign -- not on myself or my ability to lend credibility to his/her campaign. Endorsements call attention to the endorser as much as to the politician.

If Robinson and Currie were engaged with Obama's campaign merely as private citizens, they would not be making headlines and doing radio interviews. By making endorsements both of them are making statements about themselves as much as about Obama. In the end, what they are saying is that it is alright for preachers to peddle their influence on behalf of politicians.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Slip-Sliding Retirements

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston University has published a report asking "Is There Really a Retirement Savings Crisis?"

The short answer is yes.

In 1992 20% of the people aged 51 to 61 were at risk of facing a declining standard of living when they retired. Today 32% of the people that age are at risk.

35% of the Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1954 are at risk. 44% of the Baby Boomers born between 1954 and 1964 are at risk.

49% of the Gen-Xer's born between 1964 and 1972 are at risk.

If you were born after 1972 . . . well, without saying so, because he's still trying to recruit you to fight his wars and pay taxes to brake your elder's slide into poverty, Uncle Sam's making it clear that you're on your own.

Religious Conflict Reviving in America

The prominent role that religion is playing in contemporary American politics is reviving conflicts that were once dormant or at least subdued in this country.

Ethics Daily is reporting that GOP Presidential candidates Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee are sparring over an allegedly "anti-catholic" e-mail that has surfaced from a Huckabee supporter in Iowa. The author of the e-mail contends that "Protestants should vote for Protestants." Apparently, for him, denominationalism is a trumph card in the game of politics.

Of greater concern is the religious balkanization of public education as members of different faiths are launching charter schools to preserve their religious culture at taxpayer expense. Jewish Week has published a report about "Hebrew, Arabic Schools Seen Stretching the Boundaries."

Segregating schools along religious lines will prove to be as divisive as segregating schools along racial lines has been.

People of different faiths will never learn to get along until they all agree to stop trying to use the public schools to proselytize and indoctrinate unbelievers into their faith.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Jan Linn on Faith Based Politics

The Christian Century has published an essay by Jan Linn, author of What's Wrong with the Christian Right, about "On Faith Based Politics: An Exchange" subtitled "On not mimicking the religious right."

Linn rightly suggests that Jim Wallis and other social justice liberals are mimicking the religious right. Here's a quote:

The issue is not whether Christians or members of any other religious group have the right to vote for candidates who share their faith and values. The question is whether the way Christians on the right and left are involved in politics undermines both our democracy and the faith communities they represent. With good reason many of us have believed that the Christian right has done so. I would suggest that any group that focuses on the faith of candidates as a qualification for public office will negatively affect government and religion, even if its agenda is one of social justice.
For those interested in hearing more from Jan Linn, here's a link to a podcast of an interview I did with him on the Religious Talk radio program on 9-19-04.